Scraper from the Kesslerloch-Magdalenian


This is a  rather broad and short scraper from early excavations at the Kesslerloch, a Paleolithic site that was found already 140 years ago. The site is famous for the diversity of bone-tools and stone artifacts and its extremely sophisticated examples of Paleolithic portable art. A full account on these early excavation can be found her:

The  Kesslerloch is  a Swiss cave west of Thayngen, in the canton of Schaffhausen, and one of the most important sites of the late Ice Age in Middle Europe providing traces of settlements from the Magdalenian. The site probably served the groups of hunters during the summer half year as a meeting place for the hunting season. The cave covers an area of just 200 m2 and is divided by a stone pillar.

The site was discovered in 1873 by the  teacher Conrad Merk , who conducted the first excavations in the winter 1873/1874. Further excavations in 1893 and 1898-99 were followed by Jakob Nüesch, 1902-03 by Jakob Heierli. After these early excavations the site was practically emptied. During the 1980ies some work was conducted to clarify the stratigraphy of the site with some success. During the last decennia several publications about the rich faunal remains were published. According
to bone weight, Reindeer and the wild horse were the most important species,
followed by mountain hare.

Kesslerloch is well known as a find spot of an early domesticated dog. New paleogenetic data suggests that European wolves became dogs somewhere around 19 to 32 k.a. BP. In addition early European dogs are known from the Předmostí Gravettian site at 24-26 k.a. BP in Moravia, Chauvet Cave (France; ca 26 k.a. BP) and Mezhirich in the Ukraine (ca 15 k.a. BP, therefore verifying the paleogenetic hypotheses.

The oldest dog skull so far discovered to date is from Goyet Cave, Belgium. The Goyet cave collections from 19th century were examined in 2009 and a fossil canid skull was discovered among them. It has been direct-dated by AMS at 31,7 k.a. BP.

Wolves probably started growing closer and closer to the hunter-gatherers who roamed Europe back then. Perhaps the wolves fed on leftover carcasses, and the hunters found them useful in some way — maybe the wolves were good at finding prey, or could alert hunters to danger.

During the LGM (Last Glacial Maximum), the Switzerland was almost entirely covered with ice. However, in the ice-free region situated less than 50 km north of the glaciers, human occupation is confirmed as early as 23,000 cal BP. Numerous lines of evidence indicate that environmental conditions improved rapidly after the melting of the glaciers that liberated the Swiss Plateau at least at c. 17,5 k.a. cal BP, offering severe but possible life conditions to plant, animal and human communities.

Magdalenian re-colonization of Switzerland did not start with the onset of the warming of Greenland Interstadial 1e, but well before. According to most of the recently obtained AMS dates, the Magdalenian occupation falls within the cold, treeless, environment of the Oldest Dryas period; it is even conceivable that it did not extend into Greenland Interstadial 1e. More than 50 sites, among which famous caves and rockshelters such as Kesslerloch and Schweizersbild, as well as large open-air campsites like Monruz and Moosbühl, have produced different techno-assemblages that find good comparisons in the rest of Europe. In contrast to the exploitation of mainly local and regional flint sources, the use of “exotic” ornamental/symbolic objects – fossil mollusks, amber and jet – shows widespread, multidirectional long-distance connections with the upper Danube basin, the Mainz basin, the Paris Basin, the Atlantic coast, the Mediterranean and even the Baltic regions.

The oldest date from Kesslerloch, around 15 k.a. BP, may be not reliable because the mammoth bone on which the determination was performed had bad collagen preservation. Four other dates are situated around 14 k.a. BP. They have been obtained on bones from mammoth, rhinoceros, and horse and from a shed reindeer antler bearing debitage marks. These dates could fit with some objects characteristic of the middle Magdalenian, such as the baguettes demi-rondes à décor de tubérosités and the sagaies of the Lussac-Angles type  which show good parallels with similar objects dated to approximately the same period in southern France. The other dates indicate that the site was probably occupied repeatedly until 12 k.a. BP, before the onset of the climatic warming. These dates confirm the palynological dating that places the occupations into the Oldest Dryas.

The famous “gracing Reindeer” carved into a portion of the beam of a reindeer antler from the Kesslerloch:

gransendes ren kesslerloch aggbach

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About Katzman

During my whole life I was fascinated by stone age artefacts. Not only the aesthetic qualities of these findings, but also the stories around them and the considerations arising from their discovery, are a part of my blog. Comments and contributions are allways welcome!

About me: J.L. Katzman (Pseudonym). Born in Vienna. Left Austria in 1974 and did not regret. Studied Medicine and Prehistory at a German University. Member of a Medical Department at a German University.

Copyright 2010-2017 by JLK. All Rights Reserved. You are welcome to use material in these posts so long as you cite the work.

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